- August
Posted By : Rowland Heming
Shopper Marketing—The ‘Not So’ Silent Salesman

The Role of the Package In-Store

What motivates shoppers to go to the supermarket?

Well mostly it seems, it just to buy a small number of items on a day to day basis (62% of all shopping trips, according to Unilever’s 2004 US study—Trip Management—The Next Big Thing), these shoppers are quick and determined, they know exactly what they want and enter the supermarket, hopefully knowing where to get it.

But, Herb Sorensen in his book “Inside the Mind of the Shopper” (Wharton School Publishing), seems to suggest that most supermarkets ignore this fact and instead, design their stores for the shoppers who need to “stock-up” (which the Unilever study identifies to be only 13% of shopping trips). It does make it appear like supermarkets are deliberately trying to fight against the will of the quick trip shopper (who are remember, 62% of shoppers!), by burying essentials all over the shop, putting as many obstacles as they can in front of them in order to try to make them visit the whole store!

Old style merchandising only adds to the shopper’s frustration (this is where supermarkets move essentials around the store from one week to another), forcing the shopper to go on search expeditions, rather than helping them to shop efficiently. The end result is a shopper rushing through the store focussed mostly on, only what they search for, becoming stressed out and frustrated and trying to get to the cash desk and out of the store as quickly as possible. But despite all the supermarket’s efforts to make shoppers ‘walk the store’, most quick trip shoppers (more than 50%), will not visit, or will skip over sections of the store that don’t interest them. Clearly, there are some issues here that supermarkets need to reflect on, but the question that this type of shopping behaviour poses for me, is…

…what does all this mean for brand and packaging design?

Today packaging has become one of, if not, the most effective components of ‘shopper’ or ‘in-store’ marketing, and because of this many brands are putting greater emphasis on Shopper Marketing and therefore, their packaging. Because, with less and less opportunities for brands to create in-store promotions, packaging is fast becoming ‘the’ most efficient way for a brand to get noticed.

Going back to Unilever’s figures (62% of the shoppers who only focus on quick tips), it makes sense, that with this type of shopping behaviour, the chances of a brand being seen in store is becoming more and more difficult. The now famous Dupont study of the 1970’s calculated that on average a pack had about 6 seconds to be seen, but with the growth of supermarkets and the changing patterns of shopping, that figure has to be a lot less today!

It is my belief that brands need to start to think differently, to abandon the old thinking that you create and promote a brand and shoppers will come to you. Instead, brands need to try figure out how they can help the quick trip shopper majority, by making their brands easier to find with better stand-out and the ability to be understood in an instant.
This, for me means, brands need to first consider what shoppers “do” and then design from their point of view, taking into account what I call, “their” 3 pillars of the shopping moment:

  1. Finding what I want
  2. Understanding what I’m buying and being convinced it’s what I want
  3. Being reassured that I’ve made the right choice

…more on my blog www.rowlandheming.blogspot.com


  • Interesting point of view, Rowland, thanks for sharing. I would be interested to see how Unilever’s study would differ in today’s environment…my guess is that an increasing number of shoppers are now stocking up on BOGO and other promotions due to the economy. However, I still see convenience cited as a major influence in the shopping experience, and with many shoppers going to several stores to fulfill their weekly needs, retailers might lose their customers to a competitor if the experience is poor.

    • Rowland Heming

      Hi Brad, Thanks for your comment. Yes, you are right convenience is a key criteria – this is where the so called hard discounters come in – Aldi, Lidl etc.. Once the big supermarkets have killed of the small local shops, they come back in and place small stores with a limited selection of goods in local locations – in this way they exploit the consumers need for quick trips.

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